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Triceratops is a ceratopsian from 65 million years ago, the end of the Cretaceous Period.It walked on four sturdy legs and had three horns on its face along with a large bony plate projecting from the back of its skull (a frill). One short horn above its parrot-like beak and two longer horns (over 3 feet or 1 m long) above its eyes probably provided protection from predators. The horns were possibly used in mating rivalry and rituals. It had a large skull, up to 10 feet (3 m) long, one of the largest skulls of any land animal ever discovered. Its head was nearly one-third as long as its body. Triceratops hatched from eggs.


Fact File

  • Length: 9 metres
  • Height: 3 metres
  • Weight: 7 tonnes
  • Diet: Herbivorous

Triceratops was about 30 feet long (9 m), 10 feet tall (3 m), and weighed up to 6-12 tons. It had a short, pointed tail, a bulky body, column-like legs with hoof-like claws, and a bony neck frill rimmed with bony bumps. It had a parrot-like beak, many cheek teeth, and powerful jaws.Triceratops lived in the late Cretaceous, about 72 to 65 million years ago, toward the end of the Mesozoic, the Age of Reptiles. It was among the last of the dinosaur species to evolve before the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction 65 million years ago. Among the contemporaries of Triceratops were Tyrannosaurus rex (which probably preyed upon Triceratops), Ankylosaurus (an armored herbivore), Corythosaurus (a crested dinosaur), and Dryptosaurus (a meat-eating dinosaur).Triceratops was probably a herding animal, like the other Ceratopsians.This hypothesis is supported by the finding of bone beds and trackways.When threatened by predators,Triceratops probably charged into its enemy like the modern-day rhinoceros does. This was probably a very effective defense.Triceratops was an herbivore, a plant eater (a primary consumer).It probably ate cycads and other low-lying plants with its tough beak. Triceratops could chew well with its cheek teeth (like other Ceratopsians, but unlike most other dinosaurs).

Triceratops was hunted and eaten by T. rex.Coprolite (fossilized feces)from a T. rex was recently found in Saskatchewan,Canadaby a team led by Karen Chin. This 65 million year old specimen contains chunks of bones from an herbivorous (plant-eating) dinosaur which was eaten by the T. rex. This bone fragment is perhaps part of the head frill of aTriceratops.Triceratops walked on four short legs; it was a relatively slow dinosaur. Dinosaur speeds are estimated using their morphology (characteristics like leg length and estimated body mass) and fossilized trackways. Many Triceratops fossils have been found, mostly in western Canada and the western United States.Paleontologist Othniel Marsh named Triceratops in 1889 - from a fossil found near Denver, Colorado, USA. At first this fossil was mistakenly identified as an extinct species of buffalo. The first Triceratops skull was found in 1888 by John Bell Hatcher. About 50 Triceratops skulls and some partial skeletons have been found.

Triceratops had many defences as its dispposal.Aside from its three horns it had a secret weapon.It was a bone, the most spherical bone nature has ever produced, and it allowed Triceratops to rotate its head quicker and more accurately, so it was always facing its predator. All these defences were neccessary in a world where T-Rex roamed.


Triceratops means 'Three-horned face', and you know why. Its full name is Triceratops horridus, referring to how ugly it may have looked, with a massive head like described above. In the TV Series 'Prehistoric Park' Nigel Marvin disagrees with this description, after seeing the Triceratops.

Popular Culture

Triceratops features in 'Prehistoric Park', and is the main character in the TV Series 'Dinosaur King'. There is also a Triceratops in Jurassic Park. The character 'Cera' in The Land Before Time is a Triceratops.There is a sequence of a Triceratops-like dinosaur chasing the jungle explorers in Son of Kong, which was hand-animated by Willis O'Brien. They have also been featured in three major dinosaur documentaries: Walking with Dinosaurs, The Truth About Killer Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Park. They are famously known as "three-horns" (and are so named in The Land Before Time animated film and its numerous sequels) due to the three prominent horns on their head and nose, which have become almost synonymous with the dinosaurs. The shorthand "Trike" is another common informal name, and is also the name of the Triceratops character in the children's book series and television cartoon series Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs. Other TV series include Dinosaucers, Dino-Riders and Dinozaurs.

A recurring theme, especially in children's dinosaur books, is a climactic showdown or battle between Triceratops and T. rex. As such these two dinosaurs are often depicted and thought of as natural enemies. A memorable but anachronistic battle with Ceratosaurus substituting for T. rex is featured in the 1966 movie One Million Years B.C.

Triceratops appears in video games either derived directly from the Jurassic Park series or similarly themed, namely the 1997 PC games Jurassic Park: Chaos Island and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, and the 2000 PC and Playstation game Dino Crisis 2. Triceratops also features in the Zoo Tycoon franchise. As well, it is a popular creature used in games designed by Nintendo, including Diddy Kong Racing and Starfox Adventures. Triceratops (the species are not identified) is also the official state fossil of South Dakota,and the official state dinosaur of Wyoming.